This is a short introduction to some of the Cloud IT terms and a little discussion orientated to Small Business requirements:
So, what is Cloud Computing?
There’s nothing fluffy, or new, about Cloud Computing really…
The cloud refers to accessing computing resources through the internet. The actual resources (servers) you are accessing are housed in secure data centres located anywhere in the world.
Yes, that’s it really. Sometimes you pay for it on a monthly or yearly subscription basis (Google Apps for Business) sometimes you don’t (Gmail). Usually if you don’t pay it’s a consumer orientated service with limited support and, of course, adverts.
Some examples of cloud computing in use:
– Email (Office365, Gmail, Outlook.com)
– Storage (OneDrive, Google Drive)
– Accounts software (Sage On Line, Xero)
– Backup of local resources (Backup Technology, Datto)
– Servers (Amazon EC2 see IaaS below)
And more…much more
How do you access the Cloud?
– Public: A Cloud Provider will share resources within its data centres. So two different Gmail users, Jim and Jane, have separate mailboxes but their data and mail system are hosted in Google data centres, possibly sharing the same server. Jim and Jane have no idea where their data is held, it could be in Ireland, Netherlands or Honolulu (unlikely). They do believe it is safe. They’re right as the data is held in more than one data centre (the term “mirrored servers” and “redundancy” refers to the protection that Cloud Companies give to client data and programs.)
– Private: One of our clients runs a cloud-based CRM (Customer Relations Management) system. The system is run on a Server hosted in a Data Centre for which they pay a fixed monthly fee. The server is backed up and virtualised (see below!). No other business shares this particular server. It is a private Cloud Service.
So is Virtualisation the same as Cloud?
Virtualisation is often used synonymously with Cloud Computing. It is not the same thing.
Virtualisation is the act of creating a virtual version of something, for example, you can virtualise operating system, storage devices and even computer network resources.
What is the advantage?
– A single physical box (computer) could house many Virtual Machines. So we have a huge saving in terms of resources and also power saving
– Redundancy, meaning that if the physical box fails all the Virtual Machines (VMs) can immediately be transferred to another Box – and that Box could be in a different geographical location!
Okay here is the first acronym which ends with aaS – “as a Service” – very common in the Cloud talk!
Saas, Software as a Service:
– Run software directly from the Web using a Browser or App E.g. Adobe Creative Cloud
– The software is not installed on the PC or local server
– The software is installed in the supplier’s data centres (e.g. Google, Sage, SalesForce)
– Software always up to date and patched
– Pay for the software on a monthly or yearly subscription – or free (usually consumer versions)
– Can reduce need for local IT support
– Any implementation needs serious testing – low bandwidth is a major issue say for CAD software
– Examples: Google Docs, Microsoft Office Online, SalesForce, Sage One
PaaS, Platform as a Service:
– Really for techies – Software developers can develop applications in say Microsoft Windows Azure
– The developer uses the software tools, software provided by the PaaS provider
– Low cost, as the developer does not need to purchase software or hardware and may have technical support
– The applications developed can be apps, games and security systems such as cloud backup
– The applications are then usually run from the PaaS environment.
IaaS, Infrastructure as a Service
Infrastructure as a Service is sometimes referred to as Hardware as a Service (HaaS) because you are outsourcing all the equipment to support hardware, storage, networking and services to the cloud. There are many advantages to this approach:
– No CAPEX investment in hardware. The hardware is set-up and maintained by the cloud provider, reducing the time and effort spent researching, specifying, liaising with a supplier, budgeting, purchasing, installing and maintaining your own equipment.
– Go to an IaaS provider and immediately obtain a virtual server – or servers (either Windows or Linux based)
– Choose from a low end server for development work, up to cluster servers for high performance workloads.
– CPU, Memory and storage can optimised for your requirements and changed at any time, reducing wasted or unused resources.
– Pay for what you want with flexible pricing e.g. on demand pricing where you just pay for what you use no commitments or contracts. Amazon EC2, for instance, has other payment options such as reserved instance and spot instance pricing (see
– Security is a major factor for IaaS. There are different Security implementations depending on the provider
– Major players are Amazon (AWS), Rackspace and Google (Compute Engine)
A growing trend which may become a big deal in the near future is Virtual Desktop Interface. Yes you did guess right…VDI but some are calling it DaaS…
A long, long time ago IBM mainframes had many Terminals connected to it – sometimes hundreds. These Terminals were effectively windows into the mainframe server.
Today businesses could approach a cloud provider like Rackspace and subscribe to Virtual Desktops which is a similar concept to the Terminal. A user could log in to the Virtual Desktop from any internet connected device and fire up their desktop. The Cloud provider hosts the desktops as Virtual Machines on their servers.
The client no longer has to worry about machines, backup, anti-virus etc. Hmmm I’d say they should still worry about Anti-virus on their own PCs though.
There are many more concepts and acronyms used in Cloud Speak. I hope this gives you a basis to understand the fundamental ideas behind Cloud Technology!